Residential Anonymous Linking Fields (RALFs): a novel information infrastructure to study the interaction between the environment and individuals' health

J Public Health (Oxf). 2009 Dec;31(4):582-8. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdp041. Epub 2009 May 15.


Background: The necessity of aggregating health data over areas can impede our understanding of health determinants.

Methods: We demonstrate the possibility of creating anonymous links between individual residences and the local environment using digital map data and a data linkage system.

Results: Digital map data were used successfully to anonymously link 1.3 million addresses to the local environment. The data linkage system allows detailed environment data surrounding each residence to be linked both to each resident therein and to their medical records.

Conclusions: Local environment data specific to each house can be effectively and anonymously linked to the population registered with the National Health Service. Our integrated approach potentially enables flexible fine-scale, large-area observational studies of communities and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / methods
  • Databases as Topic / organization & administration*
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Public Health*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom